A Pivotal Year

October 30, 2013
Lisa McKenna

Lisa McKenna


For many recyclers of secondary commodities, 2013 has been a disappointing year. Following up on a promising 2012, traders, collectors and processors thought this year would bring continued growth. In many cases, that hasn’t happened. Scrap metal flows and the generation of nearly all other materials have been down across the board. Closures and consolidation made news in many sectors of the recycling industry, but particularly in aluminium, stainless steel and paper.

Drawing from the Chinese Zodiac, 2013 also has been the Year of the Snake, its arrival being celebrated in early February. Around the same time, a new era of sorts was ushered in for recyclers: Operation Green Fence.

According to Chinese astrology, a year ruled by the snake calls for a controlled, methodical approach to business dealings, with care and attention to detail in order to move forward. A focus on research and investigation. A time of change.

It is strikingly similar to the approach implemented under Operation Green Fence. Looking back, it has been, by many accounts, a time for pause and taking stock. A press of the reset button. A new approach designed to result in progress and improvement.

After initial dismay and confusion in early 2013, a message now heard from many recyclers is that Operation Green Fence will in the long run be beneficial for the industry.

This month, Editor Brian Taylor takes a comprehensive look back at these developments in the feature story “Too Much Tension,” beginning on page 42. It is a review of the scrap market trends and issues that have plagued and challenged recyclers as they have worked to address a one-two punch: the sluggish global economy and China’s Green Fence.

One region that has felt and dealt with some of these challenges has been Central and Eastern Europe, a part of the world we are focusing on in our Regional Spotlight story by Senior Editor Dan Sandoval. This dynamic part of the world has arguably fared better than many of its Western counterparts, and Sandoval explains why in the feature, “Following the Lead,” beginning on page 32.

A related issue for 2013 has been the re-emergence of the secondary plastics market in Europe as one that can hold its own. The focus on quality is apparently giving rise to opportunities. You can read about it beginning on page 28 of this issue in the feature story, “Staging a Comeback.”

I will suggest that this Year of the Snake has been surprising. As events played out, who could have predicted that the struggles of 2013 would make the industry stronger. But that is what many now hope they have done.